Sometimes there’s more to a layoff than meets the eye. Even if your employer claims you lost your job because the company had to cut costs or reduce staff, that may not be the end of the story. In some cases, what the employer calls a “termination” is actually a cover for the real and illegal reason for getting rid of an employee.
Find an employment lawyer to resolve your dispute.
What can an attorney do in the context of an economic layoff?
You may suspect that your employer’s decision to fire you or let you go as part of a downsizing was unfair or wrong, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was illegal. How can you assess whether it is worth challenging in court? That’s where an employment lawyer comes in. He or she can present you with the facts of your situation, the laws that may apply, the strategies available to you and your chances of success.
Was the termination of employment illegal?
An employment lawyer will review the details of your termination. For example, if many of the employees selected were all in the same legally protected group and you are also in the protected group, the employer may have targeted you for an illegal reason (age discrimination).
Even if the overall termination was legal, you may have been illegally included in the group of terminated employees. For example, your position may not have been initially selected for termination, but your supervisor put your name on the termination list after you complained about sexual harassment or unsafe working conditions. An attorney will ask you questions about your work history, performance and more to determine if your employer included you in the termination to cover up a wrongful termination.
The attorney will also ask you questions about whether the employer fulfilled its obligations, even in the case of a legal termination. For example, the employer must pay you a final paycheck with all wages you earned within the time frame required by state law. And, if the termination is part of a plant closing or mass layoff, the employer must give employees 60 days’ notice of termination.
What are the lawyer’s options?
The lawyer can outline all the legal and other options available to you. For example, the attorney can identify resources, such as:
- state or local agencies where you should file complaints to preserve your legal rights
- a state labor department where you can seek payment for unpaid wages or overtime,
This can include helping you file your claims with the above agencies, sending a letter to your employer requesting severance or settlement of your claims, or filing a lawsuit.
Good advice can help you move forward
The attorney may tell you that your only option is to file for unemployment and move on. Keep in mind that good advice is not always welcome: The lawyer’s job is to tell you frankly what your legal options are.
One of the most important services an employment lawyer provides after you lose your job is to listen to you and give you an objective, professional assessment of your potential case. The attorney may not tell you what you want to hear, but you should leave the meeting feeling confident that you have explored your legal options rather than simply accepting your fate. The attorney’s advice will give you the information you need to make informed decisions about your future.
One of the main things you need to do before making a decision about how to move forward is to weigh the costs of taking legal action against the potential benefit of doing so. If the lawyer tells you that your termination or RIF selection violated the law in some way (for example, because the employer fired all employees over 40), he or she will also tell you generally what you could potentially recover in damages by suing your employer or trying to settle your claims before trial.